GPR Awards – 2021 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix

How to solve a problem like the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix? How does one quantify a singularly unifying rejectful thing about a race weekend that didn’t even have a race? After all, on Sunday not a single green flag lap took place, and while we are constantly reminded that no points are handed out on Saturday, at Spa that is exactly what happened. So here at GPRejects let’s dissect what happened on Sunday and give out our coveted Reject of the Race and Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race awards based on what was very weird and rainy Sunday afternoon at Spa-Francorchamps.

Reject of the Race goes to the FIA and Liberty Media for their handling of the farce of all farces.

Oh, what a gigantic mess have the FIA and Liberty Media have allowed to happen. What was so particularly rejectful about last Sunday’s Grand Prix was not in the weather – you really can’t control the weather, can you? – or even the fact that the race never went ahead. It was the way both entities handled the whole procedure – or in this case, simply didn’t. After the delayed start, it seemed at every ten-minute interval, during which there either was or was not an update, the curtain was pulled back a little more on just how incapable the showrunners were handling the whole ordeal.

Rain turned the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix into a messy, chaotic farce. Photo: Francisco Seco / AP

Rain turned the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix into a messy, chaotic farce. Photo: Francisco Seco / AP

It seemed that Michael Masi didn’t know his own rulebook. It isn’t the first time that Masi has been under fire – it’s becoming a bit of a trope at this point – but Spa seems to have been the lowest point of his tenure as race director thus far. He spent hours discussing how to deal with a force majeure situation by reading the rules rather than taking the required initiative and showing some leadership. Teams and the public were kept in the dark; new rules (and, in consequences, new precedents) were apparently made up on the spot to try to find a way to overcome the heavy rain in Belgium. Although, it is worth mentioning that, for how heavy the rain was, rain itself wasn’t the cause of the consequent delays, but rather the lack of visibility caused by the fog at Spa and the massive spray that the cars were kicking about all across the racetrack.

Therefore, our Reject of the Race goes to the FIA and Liberty Media for completely failing in their job in taking the initiative. While the race would have never have gone ahead in the conditions given to the sport, it does not excuse the complete failing on behalf of the organisers in their duty to the people who tune in every Sunday for the sport they love. It seemed that nobody wanted the real responsibility of being the crisis manager – of setting aside the financial implications and putting the sport and the fans first.

Secondly, we cannot go far without talking about the rulebook itself. After all, in spite of how everyone involved handled the scenario handed us to by Mother Nature last Sunday, F1 still operates under a rulebook which doesn’t seem to be able to handle wet weather in any capacity since the tragedy of seven years ago.

Holding races in the wet has become a rarer and rarer occurrence, but fans have seen far more stoppages, red flags, and delays to ensure the safety of everyone. This in itself is a noble cause – drivers safety needs to be the priority above any show for the fans. However, when those fans get confused at what is happening on track, it’s when everyone needs to ask themselves on what they are doing.

At Spa, the four hour timespan – previously a three hour timespan – to run the race became a timespan that can be stopped whenever required. A car that crashed on the installation lap was repaired in time before the race started properly, and so suddenly, no one really understood if Sergio Pérez could take it back to the racetrack or not. Formula One is a sport with a rather rigid ruleset (which teams bend constantly) but the moment that fans get confused on what and why something is happening, is perhaps the moment of realization that a ruleset simplification might be required. Not only that, but given how  the last couple of wet races in F1 were already warnings (remember Brazil 2016 or Austin 2015?), it is time for F1 to rethink its wet weather racing procedures and, above all, think if current day wet tyres and cars can race in the rain competently enough.

Is it time for F1 to rethink its wet weather procedures? Photo: Getty Images

Is it time for F1 to rethink its wet weather procedures? Photo: Getty Images

It took for a race of the farcical levels of this year’s Belgian Grand Prix, when not a single green lap was run over a four hour period to make the FIA, Liberty, Michael Masi, and Stefano Domenicali to sit up and decide that perhaps in something needs to be done about the rules. The popular comparisons to the United States Grand Prix of 2005 are in no way unjustified. After all, the fans at least got their money back in that race.

And that brings us to our third candidate, Stefano Domenicali. The former Ferrari boss turned FOM CEO has been relatively quiet in his post as successor to Chase Carey, but after the chaos at Spa, he decided to discuss what happened. After the “race” was declared, when the fans had been waiting for hours and hours on Sunday afternoon in the pouring rain and cold, Stefano couldn’t even bring himself to suggest that they would get their money back. Lewis Hamilton and Zak Brown, to name a few, have been quite vocal about how F1 needs to handle this – by giving refunds to everyone who was at the racetrack. For the sake of F1’s image, it’s best for everyone that a refund is exactly what happens. Otherwise, it appears those safety car laps were run so that the FIA would be legally bound to not have to pay any force majeure fees or refunds as the race wasn’t deemed cancelled. It highlights a terrible out-of-touch attitude fans were probably hoping had left with Bernie Ecclestone. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Our final candidate on any other day would be a classic (and, let’s be honest, slam-dunk) Reject of the Race. However, Sergio Pérez picked the right weekend to crash on his way to the grid, sliding into the wall at Les Combes and DNSing on his sighting lap; and just to rub it in to the fans, the endless delays meant that the heroic Red Bull mechanics were actually able to fix Pérez’s car by the time the race began. It is the first time since possibly the days of T-cars that someone has managed to jump in a fresh, fixed vehicle following a pre-race crash. Imagine if Sergio had scored points…

George Russell unrejectifies himself in the strangest way possible, and earns IIDOTR for his effort

As said earlier, there are no points handed out on Saturday – except for at Spa this year. And what a race for Mr Saturday to embarrass the majority of the field by almost putting a Williams on pole! It couldn’t have been timed better – already a popular driver and a good qualifier, George Russell took full advantage of the rain and outqualified everyone except Max Verstappen. When everything was called off in the end, the people most happy were George Russell and Williams – the Brit taking his first ever podium (and unrejectfying himself in the process!) and the Grove squad taking their first podium since Azerbaijan 2017.

George Russell celebrates his debut podium in F1 - he was the biggest winner on Sunday! Photo: Williams Racing / Williams Media

George Russell celebrates his debut podium in F1 – he was the biggest winner on Sunday! Photo: Williams Racing / Williams Media

A collective shout-out goes to the fans who took the time, the effort, and the huge sums of money to visit Spa-Francorchamps this year to see a Formula 1 race. So many of them stayed throughout the farce, the delays, the lack of communication, and everything in between. They stayed because they wanted to see a race. The dedication of those who adore F1 and make the very serious effort to come to the track have an immeasurable value on the sport. Let us hope that the FIA values them too – both old and new fans.

The despondent fan stories that show the damage F1 risks

Our final shout-out is to one the season’s strangest moments. Nikita Mazepin showed off the pace of that Haas car during the safety car laps to get a fastest lap. It was a brilliant accident and just provided another layer to the weekend’s disaster. And if that wasn’t enough, the organisers then proceeded to rid him of his FL and give it to nobody, as the race was declared only after a lap – despite having done four behind the SC.

Full Results

FIA/Liberty Media 60% (18) George Russell 53% (16)
The rulebook 27% (8) The Fans 27% (8)
Sergio Pérez 10% (3) Nikita Mazepin 20% (6)
Stefano Domenicali 3% (1)  Mick Schumacher 0% (0)
Number of votes: 30 Number of votes: 30

Disclaimer: The ROTR and IIDOTR awards are purely for fun purposes.

The IIDOTR is a democratically-decided award, based on the assumption that, at any moment in time, there is a non-zero probability that even the slowest, most inexperienced and least reliable of underdogs might win the race. That under every rock, there might be a gold nugget. This is the award for that first podium that we all celebrate, for the overtake no-one was expecting, for the underdog’s first win. This is the award, in short, for the driver or team that makes you go “Woah! Where did THAT come from?!”.

The ROTR is a medal of dishonour that celebrates the most noteworthy failure of a Grand Prix weekend, based on expectations heading into the weekend and general performance. That one brainfade, the silliest mistake or the most patent nonsense going on, all that is what being the ROTR is all about.

2021 Grand Prix Rejects Awards
2021 Bahrain Grand Prix
2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix
2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

2021 Spanish Grand Prix
2021 Monaco Grand Prix
2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
2021 French Grand Prix
2021 Styrian Grand Prix
2021 Austrian Grand Prix
2021 British Grand Prix
2021 Hungarian Grand Prix